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The Brain in the Body

When talking about athletes, it is common to praise their short memories: a great quarterback, for example, will instantly forget an interception so he can go right back out and throw a touchdown pass. We know why this is important in sport, but we don’t know why physiologically this is important. However, Neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh have reported finding the neural networks that connect the brain directly to the adrenal medulla, which is near the kidneys and is responsible for “the body’s rapid response in stressful situations.” The study showed that the areas of the cerebral cortex “that are active when we sense conflict, or are aware that we have made an error, are a source of influence over the adrenal medulla. ‘This observation,’ said Dr. Strick, ‘raises the possibility that activity in these cortical areas when you re-imagine an error, or beat yourself up over a mistake,…

The Butt Test

Butts and thighs are busting out everywhere: the evidence is all around us, so I’m sure you don’t have to be told. In Lift I argue that the recent emphasis on performance in working out “is slowly, though perceptibly, altering the very culture of the body.” One example is the changing status of the butt, which, over the last four years, has given rise to the Butt Test, a semi-serious test of booty size popular among strength practitioners and Crossfitters. To take it, you simply lie face down on the ground and then you try to roll a barbell loaded with standard bumper plates (or 45 lbs. iron plates) over your body from head to toe. If your glutes stop the bar, you pass the butt test; if they don’t, you need to do more squats and deadlifts. The test arose in response to what had been an aesthetic orthodoxy…

Facade Bod

A few thoughts about a piece in Vice, called “Your Sculpted Pecs Are Worthless.” Although it’s great to see the mainstream press picking up on the idea that looking fit and being fit are completely different animals—a notion that I discuss extensively throughout my book–there are a few misstatements here worth discussing. The clickbait title, for instance. Your pecs are far from worthless, as it claims, and the bench press certainly has an important place in functional strength training. Rather it’s having pecs without back and shoulder muscles—working only those muscles you see in the mirror and ignoring the all-important back—that is worthless in producing usable strength. Similarly, the article presents the visible abs on a 26-year-old, seemingly ripped guy as indicative of a “façade-bod.” I love the notion of a façade bod, since it points so directly at the looks versus strength issue, but the visibility of abs indicates…

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